On Saturday 9th June 2012 around 400 EDL supporters gathered in Rochdale to demonstrate about the authorities’ refusal to acknowledge the role that Islam could have played in the recent case of the child exploitation ring that was found to be operating in the town.
The sexual abuse of young children is just about as despicable as it gets and, naturally, the demonstration attracted a lot of impassioned and angry people. So we were very conscious of the need to ensure that a passionate defence of the rights of the victims did not degenerate into a confrontation with any antagonistic ‘counter-demonstrators’.
Unfortunately, there were eleven arrests, but Greater Manchester Police’s Chief Superintendent John O’Hare did make a point of saying that the number of arrests was “not uncommon for an event of that size.”
He also said: “I do think it is testament to the organisers themselves who worked with us to ensure the event passed off as peacefully as possible.”
So thank you to Chief Superintendent O’Hare for acknowledging the efforts of our event organisers and thanks also to everyone who came to Rochdale to peacefully protest with the EDL.
We have never claimed that Islam could have been the sole motivating factor behind these terrible crimes, but given the example of the religion’s founder, the profile of the victims and the background of extremism known to exist within the Muslim community, it would be incredibly foolish to discount religion as a factor.
We simply cannot afford to ignore important factors because they happen to be ‘controversial’, just as the police cannot refuse to take any action because of the fear of being accused of racism.
Despite this, the media still appear to be fixated on race, as if it were the sole explanatory reason for why these men committed such appalling crimes. As EDL Leader Tommy Robinson says in his speech (above), these gangs do not specifically target ‘white girls’, but non-Muslim girls. We know this, the Sikh community know this and so too do many Muslims, even if the Muslim leadership in this country would prefer we all obsessed about the risk of the situation being ‘exploited by the far right’.
Unfortunately the Muslim community in Britain is so used to the granting of concessions and the silencing of critics that it’s no wonder that extremist-linked organisations like the Muslim Council of Britain respond to the emergence of Muslim grooming gangs in the same way as they respond to all forms of extremism associated with Islam – they blame ‘Islamophobia’.
For anyone new to the EDL, (that) should make it abundantly clear what we stand for. To paraphrase Tommy, you can hate a hateful ideology, you can hate a hateful belief, but you cannot hate people.
That is a crucial distinction. There is much diversity of opinion within the EDL about this, but what unites us is the belief that however critical you may be of Islam as a religion, this should never be confused with hostility towards Muslims as individuals.
That is why we will happily stand alongside British Muslims who share our concerns and who believe in the need for reform. It’s just a pity that they are so few of them.
This has to change. Until it does, we’ll continue to demonstrate wherever people are concerned about the spread of Islamic extremism.